Thursday, July 29, 2010

Among the Boats

Wednesday, I made like luggage and accompanied Jason in the car on his trip to Chicago. He had a presentation to give Thursday morning in a hotel downtown. Audrey was craving some time with her Grammy. Nate took his big sister's lead. I took a night off. I spent part of my night with the sailboats hovering along the bank of Lake Michigan, just beyond Lakeshore Drive where I walked hand-in-hand with my handsome husband. Sailboats pull me in like gusts of wind eager to propel them onward, as do window seats like the one I found myself cozying into in our hotel room to gaze upon the city lights, an evening of Mexican food and margaritas, and a walk downtown with one hand in my husband's and the other wrapped around a waffle cone. But no sail is quite as reaching or wind quite as strong as the one that leads us home to the little blond squealing as she opens the door to greet us and her little brother, a bundle of smiles just waiting inside. No fleet of sailboats could keep us away.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When You Give a Guy a Grocery Cart...

You come home with a dozen of these - and processed foods (well, at least my guy). Happy Wednesday. Off to smell some roses...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fair Days

Fair days take me back to the age of nine, seeing my first project as a mini 4-Her hanging in the exhibit hall. To gravel roads, striped tents, and pocket change. To straw beneath my feet and a sugary lemon shake-up sweating in my hand. To the one week of summer when my mother didn't cook, but spent the week walking among the exhibits, the animals, friends, and cuisine fried any way you like it. Hot afternoons working the fountains at the Junior Leaders stand, the air dense with natural perfumes: cow pies and damp sawdust. Men's voices quick and loud like auctioneers. Girls in sashes handing out blue ribbons. Midway lights and brightly painted rides, one shaped like a saucer with a steering wheel inside that one high school summer Jason spun so fast, I thought the world (and my stomach) might never go straight again. Our evening last call as the family gathered each night at the Jaycee tent (no need to be told) for one last fresh waffle cone (mine always mint chocolate chip, make it a double) before finding the car, and our pillows, and doing it all over again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 79

Summer moves. Almost as fast as the children. If there were a breeze (if we could only come by a breeze), its cool palms would be full - of adventures, growth spurts and milestones, and get togethers that crop up on whims. We would be riding cupped in those palms, fast against the afternoon, baring our skin to the sun, stumbling every now and then - lingering - on a flower, a mud puddle, an ice cream sandwich.

But the breeze has gone into hiding, so these days of summer and all that fills them, seem to pop hot into existence like kernels of popcorn. Suddenly, our bag is full and my computer idle as I try to take in each bit of goodness - the butter with the salt.

So quickly, before the day moves on, a short pause to share a few stories of the week past:

The little man is sporting a new smile this week, complete with two freshly sprouted teeth - his first. They cut through his gums this week, one crown after the other. In true wonder boy-fashion, he did not complain. I only thought to check his mouth after he stopped eating and sleeping at his regular intervals.

Last Sunday, Audrey picked out a dress she wanted to wear. It was too big, so I gave her a choice between to other similar dresses. She picked one with big polka dots and a full crinoline-lined skirt. After a few minutes of struggling to get the dress over her head, she yelled, "This one hates me!" Tugging on the crinoline lining she kept catching herself on, she said, "What is this stuff?"

This week, Audrey has been reading Nathan stories. On Monday, she picked out Dr. Seuss's ABC book. She turned to the first page ("Big A, little A, what begins with A? Aunt Annie's alligator, A...a...A.") and read, "If you see a crocodile, pay attention, don't scream." She kept on in this manner, turning pages and making up words based on the pictures until she reached the page for "H" featuring a horse with a rather long face, a hen covered almost completely by a hat, and on the opposite page, several furry creatures jumping up and down (itching for the letter "I"). She held the picture up for Nate to see and "read," "Yea for noses!"

Over halfway into our year of three, the age of spunk and sass, Pippi Longstocking-inspired dress, endless questions and brilliant descriptions, and never quite knowing what we might find hiding in our shoes, hot chocolate mug, or refrigerator, we've reached a phase of having to occasionally remind Audrey of the pecking order around here. Apparently, I focused on the lesson a little more than I intended last week. On Friday while playing, Audrey asked me to do something for her. She gave me a sideways glance and quickly added, "I'm still the girl."

As for the picture above, our summer "breeze" has carried with it a bit of magic. While my little sister was in town, we spent part of our weekend at my parents. Audrey informed her aunts that she had something to show them. After shepherding them outside, she began to "plant" a bit of magic. She stacked a plastic plate with a couple towels and told them that in a little while, a plant would grow. When she returned to her grandparents' house the next week, sure enough, a flower (the one in the picture) had magically sprouted. Thrilled, Audrey wasted no time planting another magical seed. Mamaw has her work cut out for her.

Summer moves. And if you stand still too long, it passes you by. Sometimes, this means you must leave things where they lay (the piled dishes, the stacked laundry, the idle computer) and catch the breeze before it sweeps on. Or go create your own.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tonight, On Our Table

A little pre-dinner crafting, because the time comes when you look at the fancy years-old jar of pasta wheels sitting on your kitchen counter and think to yourself, what are we saving this for?

Followed by some from-the-garden salad: some fresh mozzarella stacked with basil and cherry tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil (I need to work on my drizzle) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

One new recipe, Honey Lemon Chicken, and one old, Simple Cauliflower.

And now, just me, this little computer, and soon to be a hot cup of tea (someone's sinuses aren't playing nice), but you will just have to imagine that for yourselves, because sometimes even the camera gets tired, or someone forgets where she, ahem, put the batteries. Here's to the table, where so much begins and ends.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Heart Masa

I ate tamales for the first time in Carbondale, Illinois, in a little place ironically called The Corner Diner. I'm guessing their cuisine didn't always lean toward border. But the chef had lived briefly in Mexico and (in an exquisite use of his time) learned how to cook authentic Mexican dishes, tamales included. I became in instant fan. We moved to Virginia. Then we moved to Indiana. I never ate a real tamale again. Until last night.

Last week, one of Jason's coworkers introduced him to The Tamale Place. Yesterday, Jason payed the tamale goodness forward and introduced them to me. Husband and wife team, Vladimir Ronces and Angela Green met in Mexico while Angela was backpacking in Acapulco. Together with her mother, they make authentic Mexican dishes, using mostly his mother's recipes. The masa is fresh, made daily in the restaurant and turned into tamales, taco shells, and tortilla chips. They open at 6:30 am and close at 6 pm or whenever they run out of tamales, because when the masa runs out, the masa runs out.

I love a backpacking love story, especially when it leads to a so-good-you-want-to-stuff-yourself-til-it-hurts dinner for me. Come on, who doesn't love a dinner that comes wrapped like a present? If you're local to the Indy area, you'll have to give them a try. Tell them I sent you. It won't do anything for you, but maybe they'll start giving free tamales to me. Just kidding. Sort of.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Little Color in the Freezer

Lately, our culinary ventures have taken a new turn - in the food processor. With the help of Lisa Barnes' Cooking for Baby, I've been making Nate's baby food. A couple recipes in and I wish I would have done this the first time for Audrey. I love having one more use for the zucchini from the garden.

And, there's something so much more fun about having brightly colored "ice cubes" in our freezer instead of jars double-stacked in the pantry. (Pictured above: zucchini, sweet potato, and applesauce cubes - the applesauce was a homemade gift - Thanks, Elizabeth! Up next: cauliflower).

Friday, July 16, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 78

I have some catching up to do. I blinked and two weeks passed. Two weeks of good busyness mixed with those stressors found in every workplace or home whose doorway you've crossed. Today, catching my breath on thoughts of a weekend with not much planned, I looked to find my children are not the children of two weeks ago, but children much-changed. Nathan has learned to babble - in cars. With the exception of a cruise through the grocery store (after which, an employee stood waiting at the front of the registers to meet the little man she'd heard babbling a solid twenty minutes), he speaks only in cars. Loudly. Continually. Even if you've been driving an hour. It makes me laugh. It makes his sister throw books. Well, just once.

He has learned to cluck his tongue, and I am happy to oblige him with detailed conversations of tongue clucking for the smiles they elicit. He has also found his thumb and laughs each time I shake it free before trying to sneak it back to his lips. Our conversations are easy, centered around our shared interests of eating and sleeping and catching up with our friends during long car rides.

Tonight, hugging a dampened-towel-clad Audrey, I realized that her lengthening limbs are about to outgrow those standing-on-my-knees hugs. But, what has really caught me off-guard these past weeks (what always catches me off-guard) is her stretching mind and the new ways she's using it.

Last week, while standing outside, she told me, "The darkness is swallowing the sun."

The next day, she informed me, "Birds don't talk. Birds just chirp. Only people talk."

Last Friday we dressed up as cows to go to Chick-fil-a with some friends. I asked her to go potty before heading to the restaurant. She refused explaining that cows don't pee on the potty, they pee on the ground.

Today, (we had read a book featuring a Moose who becomes a clown this morning) en route to the gym, she said, "I've never seen a clown. Where do they like to go?" in a tone that implied she was about to begin a red-nosed man hunt.

In the past week, Audrey has also learned to barter, an act she performs with the skill of a veteran flea market haggler.

Tuesday, I was ready to head the evening into our bedtime routines. Audrey was ready to head outside. I told her I would take Dusty (a favorite doll) away if she walked out the door. Audrey informed me that she was going outside and she was carrying Dusty with her so I wouldn't be able to take her, but (since she was choosing to go outside) I could have two of her stuffed animals. A frog and a duck. She didn't want them anymore.

Last night, Audrey got a special treat when she was invited to spend the night at a close friend's house. Before she left this morning, she asked Michael if she could spend the night at his house again. He told her she could stay a million years. "I want to stay here forever," she told me when I came to pick her up. (I can't say that I blame her. Spending every day with my best friend sounded like such a great gig, I married him. Plus, Michael has a fun mama).

"Why are you taking me home if I want to stay somewhere else forever?" she asked on the drive home. I explained that we would miss her. "If you let me stay with them now, I'll come live with you when I'm older," she offered.

Each night, when I tuck Audrey into bed, I tell her she makes me a lucky mama. She has a habit of repeating our bedtime phrases. Goodnight. Goodnight. I'll see you in the morning. I'll see you in the morning. You make me a lucky mama. You make me a lucky mama. It wasn't until this year that she began changing the phrase to "you make me a lucky Audrey," so that it made sense. Tonight, as I carried her upstairs she said, "I'm going to figure out a way to make you a lucky mama."

"You have already figured out a way to make me a lucky mama," I said.

"I'm going to figure out a way to make you a lucky mama," she repeated.

The last two weeks have been tricky. We have reached the stage where so much hinges on words and actions. Often, I don't know what words to say. Often, I realize mid-sentence that the best thing to say is nothing. Often, I find myself meditating on this gift of parenting, the work of training a child and building a bond: strong, complex, intricately made, and ultimately, fragile - as the best things always are.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Scavenger Hunt

Since Audrey is off playing with a friend, Nate and I decided to check out a little antique shop we often pass, hoping to find that perfect birthday dress-up trunk.

I can't help but stop when I see a pile of quilts and think about the hours - planning, sewing, snuggling, fort-constructing - stacked within that cupboard. And marvel at the beauty built into each stitch, each well-crafted moment.

If the price tag hadn't made me set this impressive red engine back down ever so carefully, I might think that this truck belongs under our Christmas tree.

My favorite find in the entire store was this very round-handled rolling pin. Such a good weight in my hands and soft against my palms. Had I been shopping for me, this would have found a home in our kitchen.

And finally, tucked into the last corner of the store, we found this - purchased by the owner just last week. It's fancy. Mighty, mighty fancy. Maybe a little too fancy for a trunk that I'm hoping gets approached and used with wreckless abandon. But you never know...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back in the Saddle, Sort of

My brother-in-law, little sister, and nephew have made their way back to California. And while our travels have been significantly lower maintenance than that, we are also trying to make our way back - to normal. It's feeling like a lengthy trip. Our last week-and-a-half was filled with lots of goodness: the members of a growing extended family contained within a room; snuggling with a new nephew; celebrating one cousin's upcoming wedding and another's nine-day-old baby. But like much goodness, the recent days have brought their own sets of challenges: obliging great uncles happy to give a toddler her first taste of soda or seventh brownie; six hours of travel by car; abandoned bedtimes and routines; babies unable to nap in unfamiliar settings; and Daddy having to cap the weekend off with an early week business trip.

We have been trying to make some pit stops in the midst of all this busyness, little things to keep us grounded at home - trips to the garden armed with empty bowls for our finds; outdoor drawing sessions, followed by photo sessions so our little artist isn't so disappointed when a much-needed rain washes her portraits away; time spent running our hands or toes through the blades of grass in our backyard, each of us stretching and growing in our own way; and yesterday, getting back into the kitchen to bake some treats and fill the house with the smell of vanilla and honey and home.

Of course, for all of our trying, it has been a bumpy transition back to normal, one that (I fear) will take several more days as Audrey seems to be alternating going to bed at her usual 8-8:30pm with 10-11pm stints. But that is what summer days are made of - long goodness-filled afternoons and sleepless, too-short nights. At least for now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Weekend Snapshots

I think this little mini-break might continue in this space a few more days. My sister and brand-new nephew touched down after a long flight from California, just hours ago. I think I'll be busying myself with some new-love squeezing for the next few days. So for now, just a few snapshots of our weekend past.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 77

I took a bit of a mini-break this weekend. We made no big plans. No big adventures interfered with my blogging time, just the small adventures: Nathan learning to make clucking noises with his tongue; his rounds of "push-ups" that trick us into thinking he might crawl at any moment; Audrey's gallery of pavement art; and her first experience as captain of a sparkler.

As we watched the fireworks Sunday, one babe scared awake and wild-eyed in my lap and the other too busy playing with friends to take heed of eruptions in the sky, I could not help but feel gratitude for the simple things in front of me: good friends, precious family, blanketed yards, and the latest project coming together on my knitting needles. Of course, with blasts like gunpowder and color lighting up the sky, one's mind drifts to the events and people (known and nameless) without whom, these simple luxuries would not exist. Gratitude abounds: for those for whom the fireworks swell who willingly gave so much in hopes of lives simple and good. Gratitude abounds: for those fireworks - the big and bold, and those small and vibrant and right before my eyes. Memorable moments from last week:

On Tuesday, Audrey set a banana on the kitchen table with its stem pointing up. "This looks like a duck swimming," she said.

Wednesday, while changing her clothes:
Me: Is your underwear on backward?
Audrey: Yes. But it doesn't hurt. It's okay.

Later that day, she found the picture I posted of Jason and I hugging at graduation.
"Mommy, what's that?" she asked.
"That's your Daddy with hair," I said.

On Thursday, while looking in the mirror as I brushed her hair, she said, "I like my hair messy but not in my eyes."

Audrey came up to me on Saturday as I sat at the kitchen table. I showered her face with kisses. She laughed. She showered me back. "I have pictures of you on my kisses," she said.

I hope your weekend provided you with a little break filled with simple pleasures, vibrant fireworks, and kisses with your picture (or at least your name) on them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And All the Rest

Rather unintentionally, I think we managed to work in the rest of the colors on the color spectrum today. I had volunteered to cut papers into strips for an upcoming VBS craft project. As I worked, Audrey and Nathan got busy with projects of their own, turning the scrap paper and scrap food (expired pasta and sprinkles - who needs glitter? - dropped off by my parents) into art (or just something to tinker with, six-month-old style). Somewhere over the rainbow might just be our kitchen table.